United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division
NANETTE K. LAUGHREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are three motions for summary judgment by Defendant
Daniel F. Nash, Doc. 153, Defendant George Knowles, Doc. 148,
and Defendants Dallas County and James Rackley, Doc. 150. For
the reasons discussed below, the motions for summary judgment
by Defendants Knowles, Rackley, and Dallas County are
granted. Defendant Nash's motion for summary judgment is
denied as to Count I, but granted on Counts II, III, VI, and
case arose out of the 2006 death of Lisa Jennings, the wife
of Plaintiff Brad Jennings. After a joint investigation by
Dallas County Sheriffs Department and Missouri State Highway
Patrol, Brad Jennings was convicted of Lisa's murder and
was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. In 2018, the
Circuit Court of Texas County, Missouri, vacated
Jennings' convictions due to a Brady violation.
Jennings subsequently filed this lawsuit alleging Defendant
law enforcement officers Nash, Knowles, and Rackley, as well
as Dallas County, violated his constitutional rights during
the investigation of his wife's death and his subsequent
prosecution. Specifically, Jennings alleges the following
causes of action:
• Count I: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Procedural Due Process
claim against Defendants Nash and Rackley for deliberate
suppression of exculpatory evidence
• Count II: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Substantive Due
Process claim against Defendant Nash for fabrication of
• Count III: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Conspiracy to deprive
constitutional rights claim against Defendants Nash and
• Count IV: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Failure to Supervise
claim against Defendant Knowles
• Count V: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Monell
liability claim against Defendant Dallas County and Rackley
in his official capacity .
• Count VI: Common law false arrest claim against
• Count VII: Common law malicious prosecution claim
against Defendant Nash
Defendants now seek summary judgment as to each claim against
Death of Lisa Jennings and Dallas Connty
December 25, 2006, Dallas County Sheriffs Department
responded to a call that Lisa Jennings had died of a gunshot
wound to the head. Lisa Jennings' husband, Brad Jennings
("Jennings" or "Brad"), informed officers
that he had been out working in his garage, and upon
returning to the house, he found his wife in their closet
with a gunshot wound. Doc. 151-2 (MSHP investigative report
excerpts), AGO000213-17. Upon finding her, Jennings held her
in his arms prior to calling the authorities. Id.
Dallas County officers, including Sheriff Michael Rackley and
Deputy Scott Rice, collected evidence, took photos, and spoke
to witnesses at the scene, Doc. 151-8 (2017 habeas proceeding
transcript), p. 240, as well as performed a gunshot residue
(GSR) test on both Lisa Jennings' and Brad Jennings'
hands, Doc. 151-2, AGO000213-17. Lisa's hand tested
positive for GSR, but Brad's hands tested negative for
GSR. Id. An autopsy concluded that the cause of
death was a contact gunshot wound to the head and that Lisa
Jennings was intoxicated at the time of her death. Doc.
151-2, AGO0000289. Dallas County officials, including
Rackley, Rice, the local prosecutor, and the coroner, all
determined that Lisa Jennings had committed suicide. Doc.
151-8, p. 257. Her death certificate listed
"suicide" and "self inflicted gunshot wound to
the head" as the cause of death and noted that she had
elevated blood alcohol levels. Doc. 151-3 (Lisa Jennings
Missouri State Highway Patrol Investigation
January 9, 2007, Lisa Jennings' sister visited the
Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP), where she spoke to Dan
Nash, a Sergeant in the MSHP Division of Drug and Crime
Control. Doc. 151-2, AGO000218. Lisa's sister expressed
doubts that the cause of Lisa's death was suicide and
requested that MSHP continue the investigation into
Lisa's death. Id. Nash contacted Rackley and
requested to review the case, though the two did not know
each other and had not previously worked together. Doc. 151-5
(Rackley 2019 deposition), p. 44. Rackley agreed and provided
Nash with the Dallas County Sheriff s Department's
reports and crime scene photos from the Lisa Jennings
investigation. Doc. 151-7 (Jennings 2009 criminal trial
transcript), p. 548. Among other bloodstain patterns, the
crime scene photos depicted a single drop of blood on Lisa
Jennings' dominant hand. Id. at 575. Nash
determined that the single drop of blood was inconsistent
with suicide, because the gunshot wound should have caused a
significant amount of blood impact stain on her hand and arm
rather than a single drop. Id. At the time, Nash had
not taken a basic bloodstain pattern analysis course. Doc.
158-24 (Nash 2008 Certificate of Training for Basic
Bloodstain Pattern Analysis). Nash then sought the opinion of
MSHP Sergeant Roger Renken, who had more experience with
bloodstain pattern analysis, though Renken did not consider
himself an expert. Doc. 151-8, p. 229. Renken also determined
the bloodstain patterns were more consistent with homicide
than suicide. Doc. 151-2, AGO0000458-60.
spoke to Rackley about his conclusions, and Nash and Rackley
determined that MSHP and Dallas County would re-open the case
and begin a joint investigation into the death of Lisa
Jennings, with Nash as the lead investigator for MSHP and
Rackley as the lead investigator for Dallas County Sheriffs
Department. Doc. 151-6 (Nash 2019 deposition), p. 106. MSHP
assumed control of all of the physical evidence collected in
the case and became the repository for all investigative
reports. Doc. 151-8, p. 243. Over the following months, Nash,
Rackley, and other officers on the investigative team
participated in regular meetings and communicated updates on
the investigation. The team conducted interviews with
Lisa's friends and family, asking about the state of the
Jennings' marriage, the alleged history of abuse, whether
Lisa was making plans to move out of the Jennings' home,
whether Lisa was suicidal or depressed, and whether Lisa was
having an affair. See generally Voc. 151-2.
March 15, 2007, Nash created a crime scene reconstruction
report, wherein he detailed his basis for determining Lisa
Jennings' death was not a suicide but rather a homicide
perpetrated by Brad Jennings, including the bloodstain
patterns, the history of marital conflict between Lisa and
Brad, and the lack of evidence of an intruder. Doc. 154-2
(Crime Scene Reconstruction). The report also included two
fillable forms attached as appendices that noted Nash's
conclusions as to whether the evidence corresponding to a
list of factors was consistent with or inconsistent with
suicide, and whether any evidence of homicide was consistent
with the husband or an intruder as the perpetrator.
Id. Nash determined that only four of the sixteen
factors were consistent with suicide, whereas ten of the
factors were not consistent with suicide. Id. One of
the factors listed as "Not Consistent w/ Suicide"
was "Past Suicide attempt." Id. However,
Dallas County then-Deputy Scott Rice contends that upon
seeing Nash's report during a meeting with Nash and
Rackley, he informed both Nash and Rackley that when Rice and
Lisa Jennings were teenagers, Lisa had attempted suicide.
Doc. 158-30 (Rice 2017 deposition), p. 11. Rackley concedes
that Scott Rice informed him that Lisa previously attempted
suicide, and he believes Nash knew this fact as well,
although Nash disputes having known of the prior attempt.
Doc. 151-5, pp. 112-14; Doc. 158-18 (Nash 2017 deposition),
p. 35. Nash did not change the designation of "Past
Suicide attempt" as "Not Consistent w/
Suicide" on the crime scene reconstruction report. Doc.
March 26, 2007, Nash and Rackley performed a consent search
of Jennings' home, seizing the black robe and slippers
Jennings wore the night of Lisa's death. Doc. 158-3 (full
discovery produced to Jennings prior to 2009 criminal trial),
AGO0000462. Nash and Rackley discussed sending the robe in
for forensic testing, and Nash later sent the robe to the
MSHP crime lab for blood and GSR testing. Doc. 151-6, p. 108.
Lab records indicate that Nash reiterated to the lab over the
phone on June 15, 2007, that he wanted GSR testing performed
on the items. Doc. 158-16 (MSHP crime lab case notes), p. 2.
found that the robe tested positive for Lisa Jennings'
blood but negative for GSR. Doc. 158-4 (forensic testing
results on robe). Although the lab's typical practice was
to send by U.S. mail copies of all results to the requesting
agency, Doc. 158-19 (interview with MSHP lab technician
Nicholas Gerhardt), pp. 5-6, lab records indicate that on
July 12, 2007, Nash also requested over the phone that all
testing reports be faxed to MSHP Troop D headquarters, where
Nash was stationed. Doc. 158-15 (MSHP crime lab case note).
The lab's fax confirmations and case records indicate
that lab results were faxed to Troop D on July 12 and July
17, 2007, per Nash's request, and that a phone call took
place between Nash and a lab technician on July 17, 2007,
regarding the faxed reports. Doc. 158-14 (MSHP crime lab fax
confirmations); Doc. 158-16; Doc. 158-17 (MSHP crime lab case
note). Nash received the positive blood test results but
denies ever receiving the negative GSR results. Doc. 158-18,
pp. 14-15. While the positive blood testing was later
disclosed to the defense and used as a basis for
Jennings' arrest and the prosecution's case at trial,
the negative GSR results were never provided to the defense
or the prosecutor.
January 9, 2007, Dallas County seized a computer and two hard
drives from the Jennings' residence, Doc. 158-3,
AGO0000287, and on February 8, 2007, MSHP performed an
imaging of the data contained on one of the hard drives, Doc.
158-29 (MSHP Computer Forensics Unit summary of computer
examination dated 2/8/2007). On April 25, 2007, Nash seized
two thumb drives from the Jennings' residence, Doc.
158-3, AGO0000398, though there is no record of Nash
submitting the thumb drives for forensic examination. Doc.
158-26 (MSHP Computer Forensics Unit Officer Cordia 2019
deposition), p. 13.
26, 2007, Nash prepared a probable cause statement in support
of Jennings' arrest. Doc. 154-16 (Nash 2007 probable
cause statement). The report stated that the facts supporting
probable cause included the Jennings' marital strife, the
bloodstain pattern analysis, statements from Lisa
Jennings' daughter that contradicted Brad's version
of events and that indicated he appeared to have
"cleaned up" after the shooting, the positive blood
results from the robe, and the fact that the gun used
belonged to Brad Jennings. Id. The probable cause
statement did not include any mention of Lisa Jennings'
prior suicide attempt or the negative GSR results.
Id. On July 27, 2007, a warrant was issued by the
Dallas County Circuit Court for Jennings' arrest. Doc
154-17 (Jennings' criminal trial docket). Jennings was
charged with murder and armed criminal action. Doc. 151-7, p.
Criminal Trial of Jennings
trial for murder and armed criminal action began on August
17, 2009. Doc. 151-7. The evidence against Jennings included
Nash's testimony as a blood stain pattern analyst as well
as witnesses describing Brad and Lisa's tumultuous
marriage, Lisa's plans on moving out of the Jennings'
home, and that Lisa's activities prior to her death were
not indicative of someone who was suicidal. Id. at
239-89, 444-501. Rackley testified about Dallas County's
involvement in the case, including the processing of the
scene, that Dallas County originally determined Lisa
Jennings' death was a suicide, and that prior to
MSHP's involvement, Rackley did not feel strong enough to
ask the prosecutor to pursue charges against Jennings.
Id. at 380-443. Nash testified as to his initiation
of the homicide investigation after Dallas County's
suicide determination, the bloodstain pattern analysis which
he contended was more indicative of a homicide than a
suicide, the blood evidence on Jennings' robe, and a
pre-arrest interview he and Rackley conducted with Jennings.
Id. at 545-650. The forensic examiner testified
detailing the autopsy results, Id. at 329-79, and
lab technicians testified regarding the positive GSR test on
Lisa's hands and the negative GSR test on Brad's
hands, Id. at 516-532, as well as the DNA testing of
the blood on Jennings' robe, Id. at 680-715.
During closing arguments, Jennings' attorney remarked at
the fact that MSHP had the robe in custody for over two
years, and yet they had not performed a GSR test. Doc.
154-10, p. 17.
August 19, 2009, the jury found Jennings guilty of murder in
the second degree and armed criminal action, and he was
sentenced to twenty-five years in prison.
appealed his conviction, Doc. 154-3 (Missouri v.
Jennings, 322 S.W.3d 598 (Mo.Ct.App. 2010)), and sought
post-conviction relief claiming ineffective assistance of
counsel, Doc. 154-4 (Jennings v. Missouri, 406
S.W.3d 52 (Mo.Ct.App. 2013)), all to no avail. In 2015,
Jennings' attorney filed a public records request
specifically seeking GSR results from the MSHP crime lab for
the Jennings case, and the request was successful. The
negative GSR results were finally disclosed.
on these undisclosed GSR results, Jennings filed a Petition
for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Circuit Court of Texas
County, and on February 8, 2018, the Circuit Court of Texas
County issued its Order granting Jennings' Petition. Doc.
154-10 (Circuit Court of Texas County 2/8/2018 Order). The
Circuit Court found that the failure to disclose the negative
GSR results constituted a violation of the principles in
Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), because the
results were exculpatory, impeaching, and material to the
outcome of the case. Id. At Jennings' criminal
trial, the prosecution had advanced the theory that
Brad's hands were negative for GSR, because he had washed
his hands, and that the atomized blood detected on his robe
indicated that he was in fact present for the shooting. The
Circuit Court reasoned that evidence that his robe tested
negative for GSR would have "substantially corroborated
the inference of his innocence from the negative [GSR] on his
hands." Id. at 7, 10. Further, the lack of GSR
on the robe combined with the presence of detectable blood
"supported] an inference that the robe was not washed or
significantly molested" and that the blood detected had
come from his holding Lisa upon finding her dead, making the
lack of GSR evidence significant. Id.
assessing the materiality of the evidence, the Circuit Court
determined the evidence presented at Jennings' criminal
trial was "thin" and "circumstantial."
Id. at 15. The Circuit Court noted that the trial
judge had remarked in ruling on Jennings' motion for a
new trial that "this is a circumstantial evidence
case." Id. at 4. As the case was largely based
on Nash's and Renken's bloodstain pattern analysis,
the Circuit Court considered these opinions as well as
Jennings' proffered bloodstain pattern expert and
determined Nash's and Renken's bloodstain pattern
analysis was "unsubstantiated and illogical opinion
evidence" that "as presented at trial, does not
constitute strong, credible evidence of Petitioner's
guilt." Id. The remaining evidence was
testimony regarding Brad's bad character, indicating
Lisa's actions prior to death were not consistent with
someone seeking to end their life, indicating Lisa was
planning on leaving Brad, and describing the argument between
Brad and Lisa the day she died. Id. at 16. Reviewing
the trial record, the Circuit Court found that the
non-disclosure of the exculpatory GSR results was sufficient
to undermine the verdict and vacated Jennings'
convictions. Id. The Missouri Attorney General
declined to retry Jennings for Lisa's death. Doc. 158-22
(Memorandum of Nolle Prosequi).
Materials Relating to Bridgette Maddux and Scott
weeks prior to Jennings' habeas hearing, on October 23,
2017, Jennings' counsel received the following email from
the Assistant Attorney General:
Within the last few days, our office discovered that Sheriff
Scott Rice was given a polygraph examination conducted by the
Missouri State Highway Patrol in which he was asked questions
related to the investigation regarding the death of Lisa
Jennings. These documents were contained in a file maintained
by former Sheriff Mike Rackley, who gave them to Dallas
County Clerk Stephanie Hendricks.
Doc. 158-7 (email from Assistant Attorney General Coulter to
Jennings' counsel). The file containing the information
about Scott Rice was then provided to Jennings' counsel.
file consisted of a series of documents from the personnel
file of Scott Rice, who during the Jennings investigation was
a Dallas County deputy. Rice participated in the initial
Dallas County Jennings investigation and agreed with Rackley
and the coroner that Lisa Jennings' death had been a
suicide. Doc. 151-8, 142-149. When MSHP first became involved
and shifted the focus of the investigation to homicide, Rice
informed Rackley that he still believed Dallas County's
suicide determination was correct and felt that Nash's
bloodstain pattern interpretation was insufficient evidence
to begin a homicide investigation. Doc. 151-8, pp. 166-67.
Rice requested to not be involved in the joint homicide
investigation, and Rackley agreed. Id. Jennings
argues the Scott Rice personnel documents indicate Rackley
and Nash conspired create a false statement attributed to
Bridgette Maddux that was then used to investigate Rice, and
ultimately to initiate disciplinary action against Rice, all
in an effort to discredit him as a potential defense witness
due to his disagreement with the homicide investigation. The
following facts have been alleged by Jennings to be relevant
to his claims.
First Bridgette Maddux Conversation - Nash False Report
undisputed that on May 3, 2007, Nash and MSHP Officer Crain
interviewed Maddux as part of the homicide investigation.
Bridgette Maddux was the schoolteacher of Lisa and
Brad'sson. Doc. 151-2, AGO0000230. Nash's interview
report indicates that Maddux stated that she had known Lisa
Jennings since high school and believed her to be a good
person and mother, that she had heard Brad Jennings was
rough, abusive, and controlling, that Lisa was planning on
leaving and divorcing Brad after the holidays, and that
"she had also heard Lisa Jennings was having an affair
with a Dallas County Deputy. We then inquired if she had
heard who this person was and Maddux advised Scott
Rice." Id. This May 3, 2007, interview report
was disclosed to Jennings prior to his trial, but neither the
report nor anything in it was used during Jennings'trial
by either party.
habeas hearing was held in November 2017. Maddux testified
there that in 2007 she did not personally know either Lisa or
Brad, and that she would not have made the statements
regarding their marriage to Nash. Doc. 151-8, p. 178-79. She
further testified that during the interview, it was Nash who
raised the rumored affair between Rice and Lisa Jennings, and
she merely confirmed that she had heard the rumor prior to
the interview. Id. at 180-81.
Investigation into Scott Rice allegedly triggered by
Nash's false report about his interview with Bridgette
hearing of the rumored affair between Rice and Lisa Jennings
from the Maddux interview as well as from an anonymous
letter, Doc. 152-1 (Scott Rice personnel file excerpts),
AGO000594-95, Rackley requested MSHP Officer Rogers to
conduct an interview with Rice, which occurred on July 29,
2017. Id. Rice stated that he dated Lisa when he was
sixteen, but that they did not have an affair and was angered
that someone had accused him of this. Id. The report
of this interview was disclosed to Jennings before his trial.
Despite Rice's denials, on August 17, 2007, Rackley wrote
a letter to the Superintendent of MSHP Colonel James Keathley
relaying the recent allegations of Rice's involvement
with Lisa and requesting that MSHP investigate further due to
Dallas County's involvement in the death investigation.
Doc. 152-1, at AGO000561. Colonel Keathley responded stating
that MSHP "does not normally investigate internal police
matter such as extra marital affairs," but that they
would "provide a polygraph examination to Deputy Rice on
the issue of his knowledge or involvement in the suspicious
death of Lisa Jennings." Id. at AGO000563.
took a polygraph test administered by MSHP inquiring as to
Rice's knowledge of and involvement in the potential
homicide of Lisa Jennings, but the results were inconclusive.
Id. at AGO000596. Over the next six weeks, Rackley
repeatedly requested that Rice take a second polygraph or
risk facing discipline for insubordinate behavior.
Id. at AGO000565-73. In the series of letters and
memoranda taken from Rice's personnel file documenting
Rice and Rackley's communication during this period, Rice
repeatedly reiterated to Rackley that he believed Rackley was
pursuing the investigation against him because Rice planned
to run against Rackley for Dallas County Sheriff in 2008.
Id. at AGO000569-570, AGO000572. In two letters from
Rice's attorney to Rackley on October 22 and October 24,
2007, Rice's attorney reiterated Rice's belief that
Rackley's investigation was politically motivated.
Id. at AGO000574-75, AGO000614.
Second Bridgette Maddux Conversation - Nash False Report
this period, Nash reported to Rackley that he had received a
call on August 21, 2007, from Bridgette Maddux in which she
stated that Rice had confronted her about her May 3, 2007,
interview that discussed Rice's rumored affair with Lisa
Jennings. Id. at AGO000567. On October 17, 2007,
Nash wrote an interoffice memorandum to Rackley detailing
this alleged conversation per Rackley's request.
Id. at AGO000616. Nash wrote that "Maddux
stated that Scott Rice knows about her conversation with me
and had confronted her about the said conversation. Maddux
stated that Rice is very upset with her and that her child is
in class with Rice's wife. Maddux was very upset that
Rice is telling people around town telling that she is trying
to ruin his life." Id.
denies having ever made those statements. Doc. 151-8, pp.
181-82. Though Maddux does not recall the precise dates, at
some point during this time period Maddux was informed of a
rumor that she had made a complaint against Rice for
harassing her. Doc. 151-13 (Maddux 2019 deposition), pp.
16-17. Maddux claims she informed Nash once and repeatedly
conveyed to Rackley that she had never lodged a complaint
against Rice and that Rice had never confronted her. Doc.
151-8, p. 183; Doc. 151-13, pp. 24-34. Despite this, Rackley
continued to contact Maddux and to say he had been given
information that Maddux made a complaint that Rice was
harassing her. Doc. 151-13, pp. 24-34. Maddux perceived
Rackley as "trying to convince [her] that Scott was
harassing or whatever [Rackley] was claiming him to be doing.
And [Maddux] assured [Rackley] that [she] did not in any way
feel that way." Id. at 36. Rackley's
records reflect that sometime around October 10, 2007,
Rackley began reprimanding Rice for this alleged
confrontation with Maddux, claiming that Rice had been
insubordinate in light of Rackley's prior order to Rice
to not interfere with the MSHP investigation into his rumored
involvement with Lisa. Doc. 152-1, AGO000567-69.
Maddux does not remember the dates that she first informed
Rackley that Rice had not confronted her, the Rice personnel
documents indicate that Rackley was on notice at some time
prior to October 24, 2007. On this date, Rice's attorney
contacted Rackley regarding the alleged Maddux complaint
against Rice with the letter subject heading, "Rice v.
Mike Rackley; Employment issue." Doc. 152-1, p.
AGO000614-15. The letter noted that Maddux had
"requested a copy of the report of Nash of a purported
complaint against Mr. Rice, and it has not been provided. Ms.
Maddux has personally informed you that the purported
complaint made by her against Mr. Rice is a
falsification." Id. The following day, on
October 25, 2007, the assistant to the Dallas County
prosecutor Wayne Rieschel emailed Rackley to inform him that
"John Maddux called this morning and left the message
for Wayne that he wanted for you to stop calling/harassing
him and Brigitte and if it did not stop, he would consider
filing suit and he would be discussing it with the county
commissioners." Id. at AGO000576. At some point
during this period, Maddux's state representative also
contacted Rackley on her behalf after she requested that he
obtain a copy of the complaint attributed to her. Doc.
151-13, pp. 21-23. The Representative reported to Maddux that
during his conversation with Rackley, Rackley held up piece
of paper which Rackley stated was a complaint made by Maddux
against Rice, but that Rackley would not give the
Representative a copy of the complaint. Id.
Rackley's initiation of disciplinary action against
exchanges between Rackley and Rice came to a head when on
November 1, 2007, Rackley wrote a letter to Rice notifying
Rice of Rackley's intent to begin the disciplinary
process for Rice's alleged violations of the Dallas
County Rules of Conduct related to the Jennings
investigation. Id. at AGO000579-81. The letter lists
ten violations that Rackley claims are supported by
"substantial evidence," including:
"4. You violated a direct order and confronted witness
Bridgett Maddux regarding statements she made to the Highway
Patrol in the course of the Jennings investigation...
5. You have been insubordinate to me in speech, attitude and
actions in the course of the Jennings investigation by
objecting to my decision to include the Highway Patrol in the
investigation- contacting witness Maddux in direct violation
of my orders; by failing to be ...